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Building on What Works: U.S. HIV/AIDS Programs Forge Haiti Earthquake Response

Ambassador Eric Goosby

When the tragic earthquake hit Haiti nearly one year ago, the United States government was able to immediately respond thanks in part to the existing health infrastructure. This infrastructure was in place from our years of working with the Haitian government to address Haiti's HIV/AIDS epidemic. Since 2004, the U.S. has been a strong supporter of Haiti's fight against HIV/AIDS through the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). In a country with a weak health care system — even before the earthquake — these PEPFAR investments have not only supported HIV prevention, treatment, and care, but they have helped to build a critical health infrastructure to provide much-needed medical services.

Following the earthquake in January 2010, PEPFAR and our partner organizations were able to leverage this health infrastructure to marshal a rapid and robust response. PEPFAR immediately mobilized its 149 prevention, treatment, and care sites to not only provide HIV/AIDS services, but other health and support services as well. PEPFAR's networks of facilities, healthcare providers, community health workers and supply chains have engaged in a wide variety of response activities. Regional hospitals in the most-affected areas provided disaster-related medical care, including surgeries for trauma and other urgent conditions. Other PEPFAR sites made food, water, and shelter available to earthquake victims and displaced populations. And our sites became the centers for the mapping of tents for shelter.

More recently, PEPFAR-supported sites have played a leading role in responding to the cholera epidemic. In partnership with the Haitian Ministry of Public Health and Population, partners and facilities supported by PEPFAR have mobilized to provide cholera treatment, healthcare worker education, and commodities and logistics. They have also helped to raise community awareness around clean water, hygiene and sanitation. Our health care workers were trained in oral rehydration, significantly reducing the number of people needing IV hydration.

In the coming year, PEPFAR will continue to support its longstanding HIV/AIDS programs, while also simultaneously supporting the Haitian Ministry of Health's efforts to build its primary health care system. I have had the privilege to work with the Haitian government to establish a plan to rebuild Haiti's public health care system. As one component of our support, the United States will partner with the governments of Haiti and France to reconstruct the University Hospital in Port-au-Prince, which will provide medical, nursing, pharmacy, and allied health training functions.

As part of the Global Health Initiative, the United States is also adding services to the PEPFAR platform to provide care for people with disabilities, continued support for child protection, and comprehensive health services including maternal and child health and family planning.

The U.S. commitment to Haiti is strong, and it will be sustained. Working with the government of Haiti and international partners, the United States is committed to improving the health and well-being of Haitians, and to supporting recovery and reconstruction efforts. While the road has been and will remain difficult for the foreseeable future, by working together with the government of Haiti and other international partners, we will continue to make important progress towards a better, healthier future for the people of Haiti.